The owners of a 115,000 square-foot portfolio opposite Google’s block-long presence in Chelsea are distancing themselves from early indications their $83 million buy was a strategic effort to woo the tech giant’s employees.
Last October, Dalan Management Associates and Elion Partners purchased the Brodsky Organization’s “Chelsea Collection,” which includes several buildings between West 15th and 16th streets with more than 100 apartments and 10 businesses, such as Empire Cake and Liquiteria.
“If you work at Google and you’re putting in 14-hour days, you don’t have to go very far to get to work or go home,” noted Elion managing partner and co-founder, Shlomo Khoudari, in a Crain’s article posted on the firm’s site on Oct. 1 — the day of the transaction’s announcement.
Those words raised a red flag for affordable housing advocates, who saw the statement as an ominous one for tenants at 102-116 Eighth Ave., which contains several rent-regulated units. They gathered earlier this month to discuss the matter, and a longtime tenant noted that Dalan Management has made at least one offer to buyout a lease for $100,000, and two higher proposals, but none included help relocating or moving into other regulated apartments.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose district includes Google’s 111 Eighth Ave. and the rest of Chelsea, said in a statement released after the meeting, "My office has had positive conversations with the new owners of 102-116 Eighth Avenue. They have pledged not to put undue pressure on the existing tenants, and we will hold them to that promise."
Reached by phone Friday, Andrew Wrublin, of father/son-owned Dalan Management Associates, confirmed that pledge and disavowed the notion that Google was a factor in the purchase — but did not dismiss the idea that its employees may be target tenants.
“We didn’t look to buy a building around Google,” Wrublin said. “That wasn’t our goal . . . I actually don’t think this building is really very appropriate for the employees of Google . . . I think they look for doorman, elevator, higher-end kind of buildings. So I don’t really think this fits the profile of the Google employee.”
When asked about reaching out to the employees in the future, he said, “I’m not sure — unclear.”
Wrublin said he did not know the breakdown of rent-controlled and market-rate apartments in the buildings, but believed about 10 to 12 units have been vacant since the purchase.
Several addresses on the block have city Department of Buildings work permits posted on their interior front doors; and amNewYork was shown, by a tenant, two units on the third floor of 104 Eighth Ave. being worked on.
"The sense I’ve gotten is that the tenants seem pretty happy there, for the most part, and I hope to make them happy by fixing the common areas, making the building a little brighter, just doing things that can improve the property,” Wrublin said.
As for ground-floor retail spaces, two of the 10 are vacant, having, until recently, housed a wrap and pita joint called Wrapido and Brite & Clean Laundromat. Representatives for two current retail tenants said their leases expire in the next year and a half, and that they have had no direct interaction with the new ownership, beyond being directed to send their rent checks to a different destination.
Calling what is on the ground floor “a great mix of tenants,” Wrublin said, of vacant spaces, "I would love to see everybody there do well, and renew . . . I think most of the leases are pretty at, or pretty close, to market (rate) right now.”
He said his company would listen to any offers for the vacant storefronts.
“We want to put people in there that are going to be successful," Wrublin said. "I don’t see a high-end barbershop in the area. I think that would be a good fit."
Sally Greenspan, a board member of the preservationist group Save Chelsea, said the group would like to see Google, which has given financial support to the nearby Fulton Houses and Hudson Guild, continue to be “an involved member of the community."
"We hope,” Greenspan said, “Google will not directly market new residences to employees, that come to market via renovated housing that has displaced existing tenants. We understand, of course, that Google cannot tell employees where to live, but hope they will refrain from steering people to housing that has come on the market via displacement.”
“Too often, tenants living in buildings that have been purchased by developers for massive renovation are subjected to victimization by offering them lowball purchase prices, to encourage them to move out — or harassment, when they refuse the offer," she said.
As for the steps-away-from-work angle, a Google representative acknowledged an awareness that 102-116 Eighth Ave. is under new ownership, but declined to provide a statement about its potential as a residence for employees.